When he first became Vancouver Whitecaps FC's interim head coach back in August, Vanni Sartini took over a club in flux, with no guarantees about his future.
Fast-forward to the club's final two regular-season matches of 2021 and he's steering one of MLS' best stories, a resurgent Whitecaps group that's gone 7W-2L-3D under his watch. They're right in the Western Conference's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs hunt, entering Week 34 in fifth place.
It's not just the results, but the culture and belief that Sartini has instilled across such a short time, illustrated by his impassioned halftime speeches or celebrations with home supporters. And speaking to co-hosts Andrew Wiebe and Charlie Davies on the latest episode of Extratime, the Italian coach said that energy is just who he is by nature.
"I'm a very extroverted person," Sartini said. "I take energy from other people and I try to give energy to other people. I think that we do is, the base is doing your task in the best way. It's what I say to the players every time because emotion, the going 100%, trying to go over the wall per se, it's not enough. If it's something that can boost the work that we're doing day by day, I think it can be an asset. We need to be ourselves every time and true as we are every time, and that's who I am basically."
Regarding the club's turnaround since he took over from Marc Dos Santos, Sartini was quick to highlight Vancouver's upward trajectory before the change. But coming home to BC Place is another huge factor, as the Whitecaps spent the better part of 18 months in temporary homes in Salt Lake and Portland due to COVID-19 travel restrictions between the United States and Canada.
Now, the psychological lift is immense.
"I think that getting back home, having the fans, living in Vancouver again and living like a normal football club represented a massive boost for the guys in order to, let's say, enhance this togetherness that they feel," he said.
As for what comes next, Sartini said he'd love the opportunity to lead Vancouver on a permanent basis. But he added that all he can do is stack results and leave those decisions to the club brass.
"Of course if I say I don't want it, I'm a liar," he said. "Of course I would like the job permanently. But I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on getting to the playoffs. And then I'm so happy that at the moment I'm doing what I'm good at, so just coaching. I think most of the time we ask the manager to be the coach, to be the sporting director, to be the scout – no, I'm a soccer coach. If the club wants just a coach to be focused on what happens on the field, and I think that the club has a structure now, scouting network, to do good in the front office, I think I can be an option for the job.
"But of course it's a question for the higher-ups, not for me."
For more from Extratime, check out the full episode here.